I love the conversation I recently had with a daycare owner. During the Daycare Games her staff had mentioned to her that the dogs were so much better behaved. They attributed the better behavior to the fact that the employees were practicing the daycare games everyday. This is how one employee put it: “It’s as if the dogs know they are out there as a team together with us and they are listening better now.” And that is the secret to reducing problem behaviors at daycare. Simply practice the leadership skills with the dogs!
Your staff is a critical element to the reduction in bad behavior. Of course it obviously helps to have a good evaluation process in place so you start out with the right dogs. But beyond that, the staff’s experience and training will help or hinder your dog daycare environment.
This truly isn’t rocket science! When a well-trained staff uses good leadership skills and works with the dogs, the behavior problems in daycare are significantly reduced. As a dog trainer I see this same phenomenon in families. Training dogs builds a stronger relationship with the family and behavior problems start to go away.
This month we’re going to look at some of the common behavior problems in off-leash play. But you can’t tackle the problems without starting at the beginning…and that means taking a hard look at your staff!
So here are a few questions for you to answer before we get to the problem behavior of the dogs.
- How are you supervising the dogs? Hopefully the answer to this question is that the dogs are supervised 100% of the time by a person who is in the same play area as the dogs. Anytime dogs are playing together someone should be physically with the dogs. Dog behavior is fluid and the best supervision comes from having a well-trained staff member with the dogs.
- What are you doing to train your staff? You should have a formal training program for new staff members PLUS you should have a plan for continuing education to remind them about their role in managing the dogs and provide reminders on the best tools to use in daycare. Have a plan and write it all down! Then stick with it. (If you don’t have a formal training program then get started on developing one, or check out Knowing Dogs which is staff training in a box already created for you!)
- How often does your staff do training with the dogs? The answer should be “every day.” The Dog Gurus recommends at least 1/3 of your staff’s time with the dogs be spent doing some type of training with them. Take some time each day to work with every dog on some basic commands such as sit, come and wait.
Start this month by analyzing those questions about your daycare. Be critical and pinpoint the areas where you might want to improve. Because if those three areas aren’t strong, no advice we provide this month will solve the real problem!